Nov. 13, 2011
HOUSTON - Nancy Cole led all players with 14 kills and Laurie McNamara posted a double-double of 10 kills and 15 defensive digs to help pace the Owls' volleyball team to a three-set sweep of visiting rival SMU Sunday afternoon in Tudor Fieldhouse by the scores of 25-21, 25-17 and 25-18.
Cole and McNamara set the tone early, combining for 11 kills and a composite .318 hitting percentage in the opening set as Rice pulled away for a 25-21 decision. Rice out-hit SMU by a full 100 points in the first set (.271 to .171), and proceeded to get stronger as the match continued. In the second set the Blue & Gray hit a combined .407 in just 27 attempts and stuffed six blocks to coast to a 25-17 win.
The Owls turned-up the offensive pressure in the third, with Cole efficiently registering seven more kills without an error in 11 attempts for a .636 average. The team essentially followed suit, hitting a combined .441 in 34 swings. SMU wouldn't quite go away so easily, however, and rallied for its most productive set of the day to take the lead four different times. The Rice defense bent, but did break behind 16 more digs to claim a 25-18 final.
Rice head coach Genny Volpe was satisfied with another sound and solid effort. Volpe explained that where the Owls had also played well in their previous outing against Conference USA leader Tulsa on Friday night, the Blue & Gray didn't have the final result in that match to go along with the overall work-rate. Volpe didn't see a need to change much for Sunday's SMU match, and Rice delivered.
"We've just been playing really good volleyball lately," Volpe said. "We talked on Friday after the loss to Tulsa and said that if we could continue to play at that level we were going to have a really strong finish. We were back at it again today and this time we got a win to reflect how we've been playing overall."
"We've worked hard on getting better in different areas over the course of the season, and it's now helping us win the games that we're winning," Volpe added. "Today we served pretty aggressively and we were able to get them out of their system quite a bit. We played really smart defense. Our defense helped slowed SMU down, but also helped get us going."
McNamara's double-digit dig game was the junior's 13th of the season. Sophomore Mariah Riddlesprigger and freshman Daniela Arenas both finished with eight digs. Senior Megan White, who was making her final home appearance with fellow senior Jordan Meredith, added another seven digs.
"Laurie had a double-double, so she really had a solid performance both defensively and offensively," Volpe said. "We had a nice balanced attack, and part of that is (setter) Megan Murphy playing well. Nancy Cole had a great day today. Our middle attack, with Nancy and Jillian Humphrey (9 kills, .261), turned it around today. When we're putting the ball away in the middle we can help ourselves."
Rice improved to 16-12 overall and 11-6 in C-USA action. SMU fell to 13-16 on the season and 9-8 in conference. The Mustangs were led by senior Dana Powell's double-double of 12 kills and 15 digs.
The Owls have closed out the home portion of the 2011 schedule and must play each of the final three games of the season on the road. Rice next meets Southern Miss in a C-USA contest in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Nov. 18.
View the full box score from Sunday's SMU game at the above links.